Children with sight loss to enjoy new play facilities at RNIB Share Chalet
Tuesday 31 January marked the official opening of a new dedicated play and calming area at sight loss support charity RNIB’s (Royal National Institute of Blind People) accessible family chalet at Share Discovery Village, Lisnaskea.
RNIB Northern Ireland has helped hundreds of families enjoy precious family time at its chalet in the popular Share Discovery Village in Lisnaskea.
Now, families can avail of a new sensory play and calming area, thanks to the idea and contributions of the Bowers family from Dundonald.
Sam and Linda Bowers wanted to donate towards the RNIB chalet as part of their youngest son Jonny’s legacy, who sadly passed away just over five years ago. Sam said, “We were due to be staying at RNIB’s holiday chalet the day Jonny tragically passed away. We pledged to do something good every year on his anniversary so decided one year we wanted to support RNIB Northern Ireland as they have been such a support to me and my family.”
Sam himself has optical atrophy – a condition that means he is now severely sight impaired. “When I was diagnosed with sight loss, RNIB Northern Ireland was there for me and supported me in many ways, including ensuring I was supported in my job and that adjustments were made for me to continue working. My sight is deteriorating and getting diagnosed did come as a shock, but Jonny always put things into perspective for me.”
Sam’s life, and that of his family’s, revolved happily around their youngest son. Jonny had complex health conditions –was non-verbal, deaf and used a wheelchair, but the family knew what Jonny needed or was communicating with every gesture and every look.
Sam recalls: “When Jonny was born, we were told we would only have three to five years with him. We got 23 and a half and made the most of every one of them.”
“Jonny loved playing, particularly with sensory toys, and the thought of children and parents with sight loss being able to enjoy a room dedicated to fun family times gives us all so much comfort.
“He was so full of mischief, and very funny; the more commotion he caused, the funnier he thought it was.”
Sam continued: “Amongst other things, Jonny had scoliosis of his spine, which caused him a lot of pain. His lungs collapsed all the time and he was fed through a tube. He was always smiling though.”
“He also loved the pool, the weightlessness and freedom it gave him; that escapism for him was priceless for us.”
As well as doing something kind each year to honour Jonny’s anniversary, Sam explained that Jonny’s legacy is about so much more. “It’s like a set of rules or morals to live by,” said Sam. “Try to care as best you can for anyone who needs it. Treat people for who they are, not what they are. Jonny taught us a lot in the short time he had with us.”
“We understand the opportunity to enjoy an affordable short break somewhere that is understanding of sight loss, and with such great facilities as Share Discovery Village, including an indoor swimming pool, can be a lifeline for families, and we are glad to be able to provide this welcoming space.
“We especially thank the Bowers family for their donations towards our most recent updates to the Chalet and are sure many happy memories will be made as a result.”
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Notes to editors
- About RNIB - Every 15 minutes, someone in the UK begins to lose their sight. We are the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and we're here for everyone affected by sight loss - that's almost 2 million people in the UK. If you, or someone you know, has a sight problem, RNIB can help. Call the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or visit www.rnib.org.uk
- RNIB’s Children, Young People and Family’s team - provides services for blind and partially sighted children and young people, including those with complex needs from birth to 25-years-old. This service offers specialist advice, information and guidance; connections to information and networks; family, early years and transitions support; products, toys, games, books, magazines and curriculum materials. The team also provides family learning days and weekends for children and young people with sight loss and their families.
- RNIB’s Employment Team - If you’re blind or partially sighted, our Employment service can provide specialist support and advice to help you find work or to stay in your job if your sight deteriorates. The Eye Work Too Programme is a Northern Ireland based pre-employment initiative which offers opportunities if you are seeking to gain employment for the first time or if you’re unable to continue working in your current job due to sight loss. The Workable NI Programme is a Northern Ireland based job retention initiative which aims to support you if you are experiencing difficulties at work as a direct result of your sight loss. The programme acts as an intermediary between you and your employer and primarily focusses on supporting you to remain in your job.